Flattr: Micro-payments That May Actually Work

I use a bunch of cool open source software. Software that works great and is free to use. It’s written by an individual, or a group of people in their spare time. They don’t ask for money. Sometimes they have a tip jar on their web site, but the overhead for me to go there and make a PayPal payment of a few bucks is rather off-putting. So I rarely do it.

I visit a bunch of websites that I really like. Blogs run by individuals in their spare time. Sometimes they have ads on the site, but I don’t click them. Still, their content is great and I’d love to show my appreciation. However, the barrier to give them a few bucks or even cents for an article is high. So I rarely do it.

I have [a blog](http://zef.me) that I try to update regularly. It takes time. In addition, it costs me money to host it — about $20 per month. I’m happy to do it — it’s not a reason to take the site down — but it would be nice to at least earn the hosting costs back. I tried ads, they don’t work.

As a consumer and producer of content, albeit software or text, I feel the need to appreciate and be appreciated. Appreciation does not have to be shown through payment, of course, but it is an effective way. Especially when running the project in question _costs_ money. A tip jar, or advertising usually does not work. The overhead of sending somebody money is too high. It takes time, and it _feels_ expensive. And advertising only works for a particular kind of content website, with a certain audience.

That’s why I really like the idea of [Flattr](http://flattr.com). When you sign up for flattr (invite-only at this time, but you can [quickly sign-up to receive an invite](https://flattr.com/register/beta)), you pledge to pay a certain amount of money (at this point 2, 5, 10 or 20 euros) per month to sites and projects you like. So, no matter if you “flattr” one site, or a hundred, it is going to cost you that flat (get it?) rate. Your monthly funds are evenly distributed over all the things you flattr. If you put in 2 euros per month, and you only flattr one project, that project is going to get 2 euros that month. If you flatter 10, it will be 20 cents per project. It’s as simple as that.

I think the fact that you pay a flat rate per month (and honestly, is 2 euros per month too much for anybody?) has a major impact on somebody’s willingness to contribute to projects in this way. With just one or two clicks you flattr a site or project and they will get a small payment by the end of the month. _And it will not cost you more than when you hadn’t made those two clicks._ Then, a month later, if you still like the site or project, you can flattr it again.

The problem right now is that flattr is still invite-only and that very few sites I visit use it, but I expect that will change once it gets out of beta.

They may be onto something here.